Watchdog

Campaign Watchdog: Barr's Wall Street bonus claim 'mostly false'

The statement: U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, "voted to give millions in taxpayer money to Wall Street executives."

— Andy Barr, Republican candidate for Congress, in a television commercial running this week on Lexington television stations

The ruling: Mostly false

The facts: Chandler opposed the October 2008 bank bailout, which created the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. That's the bill signed by President George W. Bush sending taxpayer money to Wall Street.

Barr is referring to Chandler's vote for another bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Most of that bill dealt with distributing $787 billion in economic stimulus spending, but one section sought to prohibit bonus payments at companies that received TARP funds.

However, in negotiations over differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., added a sentence to protect bonuses at TARP recipients if the bonuses were included in employment contracts before Feb. 11, 2009.

Chandler voted to accept the final compromise version, so the measure he supported did allow some bonus payments, as Barr accurately has stated in the past. But the language in this week's ad is misleading.

The claim that Chandler's vote for the stimulus bill also was a vote "to give millions in taxpayer money to Wall Street executives" stretches the truth. The stimulus bill blocked some bank executives from getting bonuses while allowing others to receive them, but it didn't fund any bonuses for bank executives.

Further, it's not clear how much of the bonuses paid to bank executives was "taxpayer money" received through TARP rather than the banks' own funds.

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